It’s another bumper week for Wonder Woman as not only do we have the latest in her standalone, eponymous title, Wonder Woman, which continues the war between the First Born and basically everyone else, we finally have the conclusion of the Forever Evil storyline where Wonder Woman and her lasso save the day through a link to one of the people you probably weren’t expecting, and we also have the latest instalment of the Doomsday saga in Batman-Superman #11, which doesn’t feature Superman at all, so Wonder Woman deputises for him. Really should have been Batman-Wonder Woman, in fact, particularly given how the Forever Evil storyline concludes…
And although this is Weekly Wonder Woman, I’m also going to have a look at Forever Evil: Argus #1-3, which I was extremely negligent in not covering when they came out, since they include flashbacks to some of the most important Wonder Woman moments since the nu52 started.
Spoilers ahoy, obviously.
Wonder Woman #31
Hermes and Dionysos are busily griping about being thrown off Paradise Island for being male, when they realise that the spirits of the dead are returning, which suggests all is not good in Hades.
They go for a visit and discover that the First Born has rent his uncle and forced Cassandra to feed him repeatedly to his own father.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is busily reorganising Paradise Island as its new queen.
Not everyone’s happy though, and when Zeke is abducted, Diana has to save both him and his abductor.
Diana is also raising an army of her siblings. As well as sparring with Artemis, who suggests that maybe Diana would like to lose her bracelets so she can go full goddess…
…the family Hephaestus has shown up, bringing the male Amazons in tow.
But then Dionysus arrives with the bad news from Hades…
Is it any good?
While it starts to put us back on course to the conclusion of the story arc, it does at times feel like a bad bit of male rights activism. Wonder Woman has, of course, since her beginning been an extoller of the virtues of women. However, during the nu52 run, that’s been conspicuously absent, with nary a word said on the subject. Indeed, a considerable amount of time has been spent having Wonder Woman apologising to one or more men and learning that they aren’t all bad, even when they’ve been grabbing her arse and calling her ‘Legs’.
Now we have poor Dionysus and Hermes complaining about being thrown off Paradise Island for being male, Diana forcing the Amazons to accept the return of their sons and to guard Zeke. It all feels like Azz’s message is “I think you find the real sexists are women. Once you put your house in order, with your exclusion of and raping and killing of men, and your slaughtering of boys (which I invented), then the real problem will have been dealt with.”
But that’s more background than foreground, the foreground being Diana effectively ‘manning up’ to lead the Amazons and the gods against the First Born. It’s nice to see her being proactive rather than reactive for a change. It’s also intriguing to see the whole ‘Tron’ thing being explored again…
…the implication here being that it’s not the Amazons that go old-school loopy if they lose their bracelets, it’s just Diana because the bracelets restrain her godly nature. Presumably this is only in the heat of battle, because even in her own title, she does take them off occasionally:
The events in Hades are a little saddening, with a return once again to the Orphic myths for full on godly cannibalism, and the gods once again reduced to mere fools by the First Born. While one could argue that being of the same generation as Hermes and Dionysus, the First Born could be their equals – where’s Athena when you need her? – the Greeks believed that each generation of gods was weaker than the one before, requiring greater and greater cunning not brawn for their offspring to defeat them. Given that Hades, certainly, was on a par with Zeus and even within DC Comics, Zeus was easily able to defeat the First Born (albeit with his lightning bolts), the fact Hades is so easily defeated and rent asunder in his own domain seems like mere shock value rather than something springing from the characters or the mythology.
Still, it is an appropriately Tartarean punishment for Hades and if the game plan I imagined for Azzarello a couple of issues ago is right, then these events are all leading to a specific conclusion. Apart from the changed relationship with Hera, who would be the natural Queen of Olympus after the overthrow of the First Born, we have the possibility of Persephone assuming her rightful place as Queen of the Underworld in Hades’ stead, and we also have the apparent ‘civilisation’ of Dionysus and perhaps Hermes, whose games presumably have been so cruel because there have never been any real consequences for them. Now there’s the possibility of death and torture for their actions, they’re learning that it’ll be necessary to play nice within the Hera/Diana regimen in future.
At least, that’s my prediction. Let’s see how it plays out.
Batman, Wonder Woman and Steel converge on the Fortress of Solitude, looking for a cure for Superman, who’s been infected with Doomsday. Batman and Wonder Woman (and Superman’s dog Krypto) enter the Phantom Zone, looking for Doomsday’s point of origin and how he escaped.
Things are a bit crazy in the Phantom Zone, but Wonder Woman keeps Batman on target.
There are cracks in the Phantom Zone that even Mongul and Non, one of Zod’s henchmen, are having trouble keeping closed. Fortunately, Wonder Woman’s here to save the day.
That doesn’t stop Mongul wanting to pick a fight with Wonder Woman. But then Ghost Soldier turns up and everything gets a bit insubstantial.
Turns out that someone’s been engineering the cracks through which Doomsday escaped.
Who’s behind it all? Xa-Du, the Phantom King, of course? (Ed: Who he?)
Turns out that releasing Doomsday was a bit of a mistake, though. Now he just wants to kill Doomsday (and Superman) since there’s no cure, he claims, which doesn’t impress Diana much.
And after a series of fights, Diana extracts Xa-Du from the Phantom Zone.
Is it any good?
It’s largely a plot-exposition piece crossed with some Superman-guest stars having fights. The artwork ain’t great and everyone has a slight habit of portentously announcing who they are.
But for what it is, it ain’t bad. You have Batman’s eternally dark monologue on his and Clark’s friendship; you have Diana wiping the floor with an assortment of top-tier Superman villains; you get to find out what’s up in the Phantom Zone; and you get an idea of how impressed Batman is by Wonder Woman. More on that in a minute.
Forever Evil #7
Armed with Wonder Woman’s lasso, Cyborg and co are going to try to extract the Justice Leagues from within Firestorm’s matrix. However, in between issues, it’s been revealed/changed so that only someone with a ’strong emotional tie’ with Wonder Woman can use it. That was Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s ex-. Now who might it be?
Why it’s Batman, obviously? They’ve ‘known each other a long time’. Selina seems a bit suspicious of that…
But it turns out to be true.
Except Superman’s still dying, thanks to that lump of kryptonite left in his ear. Who will save him? Oh. Lex Luthor will.
With all their evil counterparts either dead or trapped, Wonder Woman’s able to visit evil Lois Lane (aka Superwoman) in her prison cell. Diana wants to know what’s responsible for the great big red tear in the sky that caused her and her comrades to escape their universe. But Superwoman’s more interested in the fact she’s pregnant with evil Lex Luthor’s baby.
Superman theorises it’s Darkseid behind the tear. But actually, it’s the Anti-monitor and he wants to kick Darkseid’s backside, too.
Is it any good?
Largely, it’s on a par with the rest of Geoff Johns’ work – not exactly subtle and filled with dreadful dialogue, but replete with character moments and BIG THINGS. In this case, apart from Lex Luthor and all the supervillains effectively saving both the Justice Leagues and the day itself, we have the big set-up for presumably the next epic crossover horror, which involve Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor.
But we also have that strangeness with Batman. Yes, super-stalky Batman. Now the Batman-Wonder Woman dynamic (largely Wonder Woman being interested in Batman, rather than the other way round) was something big in the Justice League cartoon series.
But in the post-Crisis DC universe, beyond a couple of issues of Justice League, there was almost nothing, other than a weird moment in Darkest Night, when Aphrodite sends a vision of Batman to help Wonder Woman:
In the nu52, however, it’s been very clear that Selina/Catwoman’s pretty much it for Batman and there’s not been any sign of interest at all from Wonder Woman. So what’s going on here? Has Batman been harbouring a secret interest in Wonder Woman, which is why he’s been watching her with Superman from afar?
Of the options, an attachment from Batman towards Wonder Woman that isn’t reciprocated seems the most likely – after all, Wonder Woman is a goddess, so why not? Batwoman was interested.
But equally this could just be Selina getting suspicious of the genuine emotional tie of friendship between Batman and Wonder Woman. They have worked together for six years, after all.
But I can’t imagine that Geoff Johns – who goes ADHD-like from frame to frame of every issue he writes, revealing story point after story point like the anti-Azzarello himself – dropped that in there for no reason. And Batman was particularly drawn by Wonder Woman’s eyes in Batman/Superman #11, which comes after Forever Evil. Let’s see what pops up in the next few issues of Justice League, anyway.
On the whole, the issue is a reasonable enough way to finish off the almost interminable Forever Evil and set up about another 20 or so future plots, but without any real depth for anyone whose name isn’t Lex Luthor – whom, to be fair, Johns handles pretty well. More on him in a minute.
Justice League #30
Lex Luthor is a hero. Everyone loves Lex. So he’s decided to get the Justice League back together. First job? Take out ‘The Secret Society of Super Villains’. Who have actually bothered to engrave that in their table.
We then flashback to how this all happened, with a very annoyed Wonder Woman first of all taking on Metallo so she can find Luthor.
They find him in a satellite on the other side of the Earth from Watchtower and pay him a visit. Shazam’s already had the invite to join Luthor’s new Justice League. The League are naturally suspicious, so Luthor suggests that Wonder Woman lasso him so they can find out his true motivations.
It turns out that Luthor may hate Superman and superheroes, but he hates whatever is out there (i.e. the anti-Monitor) even more and wants to avoid the Earth getting destroyed by it. And because he’s an ego-maniac.
Is it any good?
Well, it’s good to have a Justice League that actually features the Justice League, but again, it’s big, bold colourful Geoff Johns colours. Wonder Woman is shouty and likes sticking swords in things; Batman is dark and cryptic and doesn’t say much; Shazam is like a 13-year-old; and so on. It’s fun and energetic, but not the most intelligent of scripts.
On the plus side, we do get a new League that incorporates Shazam and Luthor; we get the continuation of the anti-Monitor storyline; and we get more Luthor characterisation. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the issue, though, is that the Supervillains now apparently know the ’secret of chaining Wonder Woman’.
When last we looked, the “how to stop Wonder Woman” suitcase was empty:
Now, though, it turns out she can be chained. How the supervillains found this out, who knows? I’m assuming they’ve been reading Golden Age Wonder Woman though.
It’s interesting that again, rather than heading back to the post-Crisis Volumes 2 and 3 of Wonder Woman for inspiration and continuity, the current crop of DC writers are heading back to Volume 1 to the aspects of her mythos that have permeated popular culture.
Forever Evil: Argus #1-3
Now I didn’t cover these at the time, because frankly, not only do I not have the cash to buy every single issue of every DC comic in the hope that Wonder Woman will show up, there wasn’t even a hint beyond the presence of Steve Trevor that she might be (particularly since at the beginning of the Forever Evil arc, she was MIA).
But I’ve now had a chance to look at them and, hey, guess what? They’re really, really important, because they’re all about Steve Trevor and Diana. Now, as we all know, despite the changes in the Wonder Woman mythos since the start of the nu52 and indeed post-Crisis, one thing has remained constant: Steve Trevor is the reason Wonder Woman left Paradise Island by crash-landing on it, with Diana then returning him to America.
In Volume 1, as indeed on the 1970s TV show and the 2011 pilot, it was because she fell in love with him (or his son, Steve Trevor):
Post-Crisis, when Steve was made considerably older and eventually married to Etta Candy to avoid romantic entanglements with Wonder Woman, he was returned to the outer world by Diana in order to stop Ares.
The nu52 restored Steve Trevor to studliness and made him Diana’s boyfriend for the first year of its run, which actually encompassed five years of in-story time. But unlike in previous volumes, although it’s been hinted at, we’ve never seen until now how they first met.
In flashback in Forever Evil: Argus #1-3, we get to see not just that first meeting, but why Wonder Woman came to America and how their relationship evolved. We get to see Steve Trevor’s plane crash-land on Paradise Island.
Wonder Woman (in a near-Ancient Greek skirt for a change) rescues him.
They go back to America, where the newly-appointed ambassador Wonder Woman gets to go to the Rose Garden while Steve meets President Barack Obama. The president has weirdly decided to get him to set up an organisation to monitor Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League.
Then we get to see the kinds of dates Steve and Diana used to go on.
And we learn that not only does Steve now have a room full of momentos dedicated to Diana that’s called the Wonder Room. Yes, really…
…Diana has so many swords made by Hephaestus, each with different functions, that she can just leave Steve with one and not be that fussed about it.
Overall, the whole arc is a little strange. Apparently aggrieved that a male character could be so thinly drawn relative to the female character that he supported – welcome to every female character/superhero relationship since the medium was created – DC has effectively dedicated numerous titles, including Justice League America to rehabilitating Trevor and showing that he’s a strong, independent man whose life doesn’t revolve around Diana.
And in all these issues, it’s revealed how much his life revolves around Diana. How odd.
As a set, the seven issues are a nice little tribute to the Trevor-Wonder Woman relationship and give a hint at what they were like together. There are references to at least some of the mythological battles they had: the ‘Khioni cloud’ (presumably a reference to the daughter of Callirhoe) gets a name check and of course we get to see the ‘Khalkotauroi’ – well, a Khalkotauros, since Khalkotauroi is plural – and the Morai, who are now prophesying witches from the ‘Delphic mirror’, rather than the Fates themselves.
You can understand why DC never showed this relationship when it was supposed to be happening, just as the company never paired Superman with Lois Lane initially: fans would be forever arguing that Lois/Trevor was the true love and Superman/Wonder Woman was a rebound partner (not that that’s stopped them doing just that). But because we do now get to see the relationship thanks to Trevor’s constant dwelling on it, it just makes Trevor look a very sad character, forever lost without Wonder Woman now she’s found someone she can truly be with.
But while it is nice to see what they were like together and to get those scenes of their initial meeting, it is notable that writer Sterling Gates shows Steve remembering how the relationship didn’t quite work – how he wasn’t able to keep up with Diana, how he was more into her than vice versa, how their dates always ended prematurely because of who she is, how he had to hide things from her and how there was a distance between them. It is a surprisingly subtle portrayal of a relationship that’s doomed by eventual incompatibility, circumstance and fate (not the Fates), and of a man hung up, despite his best efforts, on ’the one that got away’.
It’s also notable how much these things mirror events in Superman/Wonder Woman, where most of the same problems present themselves. But in contrast, Superman and Wonder Woman are able to find solutions together when Steve and Diana either couldn’t or didn’t try. Clearly, in the nu52 universe at least, there’s a couple that are destined to be together and it’s not the one you might have thought it was when the nu52 started…